When you’re looking for an agent, it seems like nothing on earth can make you happy till you find one. You’ve spent a long time working on your novel and now you want to see it published and you’re desperately trying to get your foot in the door. Then you go along to some literary event and you hear a published author speak. And what she says is she wishes she could go back to the time when she was unpublished, before she’d found an agent. Wait a minute. There she stands in her ivory tower of three book deals and translation rights and literary festivals and launch parties and signings. And she’s hankering after the halcyon days when she was a struggling writer? She’s joking, surely?
Or is she? For, even in the midst of the tortuous process of trying to find an agent, I can see certain advantages to my situation now.
- I am free to write what I like. I have no brief to fulfil and no pitch I must live up to. I can experiment all I want. If I feel like it, I can completely change tack and deviate from everything I’ve written before. I have no ‘brand’ built around me, no expectations to satisfy.
- I can take as long as I like to write my novel. I have no deadlines to meet, no contractual time constraints, no-one breathing down my neck. If I want to work on it for the next ten years, I can.
- My writing time is my own. During this time, I can dedicate myself purely to the act of writing because I have no other authorial tasks to perform: no marketing or promotional duties; no wistful talks to give at literary events.
- Though I live in fear of the agent’s rejection slip, yet I need not fear the dreaded book review which would lay bare all the faults of my novel for everyone to see without a care for my feelings.
- I am not faced with Second Book Syndrome whereby, having spent years perfecting and honing my beautiful first novel, I now have to produce another one in a matter of months whilst most of my available writing time is taken up grappling with the aforementioned marketing duties and I am wandering around in a state of shock at having been published in the first place.
- I can still meet with my fellow un-agented, unpublished writer friends to pool our despair at being members of this misunderstood club whilst slagging off lots of published books we deem to be less accomplished than our own.
No wonder published authors sometimes long for the good old days. These are the days when you’re truly your own person, when nobody owns you and when your dreams are unsullied by experience.
It’s useful to remember that there’s always an upside. But does this mean I’ll be consigning my synopsis and cover letter to the recycling bin? I don’t think so. I know the grass isn’t always greener, but I think I’ll take my chances, all the same.